THE GODFATHER Part III, 1990
7 Oscar Nominations: Best Picture; best director; best editing, best supporting actor; best original song; best art direction, decor; best cinematography
New York, 1979 -- Michael Corleone has gone legit and wants to reconnect with his children, Mary and Tony, and his ex-wife Kay; but the dark forces he once marshaled have come back to haunt him and his dreams for a normal life.
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A great many talented, well meaning people came together to make this. Academy members gave it a stack of nominations. Still you wonder what they were drinking and where can you buy a bottle. Because if Godfather I and Godfather II seem like Michael and Sonny – Godfather III is Fredo. For Coppola and Puzo this is pretty weak stuff. Pretty: lush settings and cinematography flattering stars at every turn. Weak: a painfully, bloated and lackluster script.
Michael has been living in New York for some time. He has left the Mafia and become an investor/ philanthropist. He’s giving the Catholic Church a hundred million and they in turn are giving him the Order of St. Sebastian – he wants his children and Kay to be there. The reception after the ceremony is the grand party that opens all Godfather films – a lovely device to introduce main characters.
The rough template for the story is King Lear – a fine place to start: an ageing monarch relinquishes control of his kingdom to his heirs – but age has dimmed his judgment and he puts his trust in the wrong people: civil war erupts and tragedy ensues.
Part of the difficulty is that he needs redemption – for his past sins, for killing his brother. This is understandable and compelling; but it’s not a theme that wants a three ring circus for a plot. It could have been a much smaller and more successful film – just as Fredo might have led a fruitful life as a barkeep, instead of his disastrous turn as a Mafioso. Like Fredo, this film feels the need to live up to its illustrious heritage; and so...
There is a big money deal with the Church and his old Mafia Gang want in and Michael wimps out and lets them in and then there are tensions and rivalries and he has a heart attack and while he is unconscious Vincent orders a couple hits and all hell breaks loose and Michael wakes to mayhem. Redemption doesn’t stand a chance.
On the plus side there is Diane Keaton as Kay. Kay’s finally given the opportunity to be more than Michael’s reluctant pawn – she is torn between love and honor. Hers is one of the few, fully formed characters in the film. Carmine Coppola makes a fine contribution to the score -- on this film and the previous two. George Hamilton as Michael’s executive assistant is a pleasure to have around. And Sofia Coppola (Mary) lends a fresh face to these tired proceedings; although she’s a finer filmmaker today than actress 20 years ago, you wonder what anyone could bring to some of these lines:
The final setting in Palermo: an Opera House; all the major players are there. Michael is pulled aside and told of a plot to assassinate the Pope: Michael: “This Pope has powerful enemies – there may not be time to save him – let’s go back to the opera.”
This line owes less to Bill Shakespeare than to Groucho Marx.